Learning to become a pilot doesn’t just include practicing how to fly on a physical aircraft. Before a trainee pilot can set foot on a plane, they must undergo flight simulator training. Flight simulators are training devices that replicate aircraft systems while allowing a student pilot to experience flying in different simulated environments. Through flight simulator training, student pilots can comprehend aircraft mechanisms, enhance their skills and confidence, and prepare them in operating an aircraft.
Before explaining how an aspiring student pilot like you can benefit from simulator training, it’s important to establish the different types of flight simulators and their different levels.
Different Types and Levels of Flight Simulators
There are two types of flight simulators, which mostly refer to their ability to recreate a plane’s physical movement. Meanwhile, the different levels of flight simulators establish the device’s sophistication.
The two main types of flight simulators are:
Full Flight Simulator (FFS)
This flight simulator provides the most realistic flight experience for student pilots as the simulator moves and acts like a plane while recreating a flight deck. There are four levels for FFSs, Levels A to D, with Level D being the most sophisticated.
Examples of Full Flight Simulators are the L3CTS A320 Full Flight Simulator, which provides a Level D Airbus 320 simulation (including an Upset Prevention and Recovery Training or UPRT capability), and the CAE A330/A340 Full Flight Simulator, which provides Level D Airbus A330-200 and Airbus A340-300 simulations.
Flight Training Device (FTD) or Fixed Base Simulator (FBS)
Unlike FFSs, an FTD/FBS cannot mimic the movement of a plane. They can, however, provide a trainee with a 3-dimensional flight experience via visual and sound effects. FTDs can also recreate flight systems and controls, but the programming and model vary per device level.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have different level classifications for FTDs. FAA has seven levels, with Level 7 being the most sophisticated. EASA has three levels of FTDs, which include Level I, Level II, and Level III—with Level III for helicopters. EASA also has an additional certification called Flight and Navigational Procedures Training (FNPT), which has two levels, Level I and Level II, and an FNPT device for Multi-Crew Cooperation training.
Because of their ability to recreate flight systems and flying conditions, these flight simulators can support your pilot training by:
Providing You with a Safe Training Environment
Flight simulators can provide you with a safe place to practice your flying skills before getting on an aircraft. Without flight simulators, you might have to learn flight systems, operations, and controls by operating an actual aircraft. However, this method may be dangerous as you might not yet have the experience to control a plane, endangering your and your instructor’s life. In addition, accidents can damage an aircraft, so the entire situation becomes costly for your flight school.
Familiarizing You with Aircraft Operations
One of the benefits of learning on a flight simulator is its ability to help you familiarize yourself with flight operations. The different types of flight simulators mimic the cockpit, flight controls, systems, and other flight mechanisms to give you a chance to explore them and get to know how to operate these systems together. And as you gain a better understanding of these different flight systems, you also practice your multitasking skills, which will help you become better a pilot.
Replicating Different Flight Scenarios
The ultimate advantage of flight simulators is their ability to replicate all kinds of flight scenarios. You can experience realistic simulations of emergencies, low visibility conditions, and other dangerous flight situations and learn how to deal with them without risking your life and that of your instructor’s. Through these simulations, you may also make mistakes and learn from these errors without risking injury to yourself.
Allowing You to Practice Your Teamwork
Flight simulators like the MPS A320 Fixed Base Simulator (FBS) can give you a Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC) training. This type of training hones your communication and collaboration skills as you learn how to make in-flight commands, delegate tasks, and other scenarios where you might interact with a co-pilot, flight attendant, and other aircrew members. In addition, MCC training is a requirement to get an Air Transport Pilot License, Multi-Pilot License, and Multi-Pilot Type Rating.
Introducing Trainees to Several Different Aircraft Types
Flight simulators not only replicate all kinds of flight scenarios, but they can also mimic the flight controls of different aircraft types. For example, the Flight and Navigational Performance Trainer (FNPT) can reproduce the flight deck of a Cessna 172SP Skyhawk NAV III and Cessna Citation II. Meanwhile, the CAE A330/A340 Full Flight Simulator mimics the aircraft functions and feel of the Airbus A330-200 and the Airbus A340-300.
A flight simulator’s ability to replicate the flight controls of different aircraft models gives you a cost-effective way to experience various airplane systems as flight schools won’t have to buy different types of aircraft. Flight simulators can also provide a realistic model and flight experience that will help you get used to flying an Airbus A330-200, for example, and improve your confidence in flying such an aircraft.
With the benefits listed above, it becomes clear how useful flight simulators are when it comes to pilot training. Not only will flight simulators keep you safe while practicing how to operate a plane, but they will also provide you with the training you need to become the best pilot you can be. Flight simulator training is also something you can keep doing even as a licensed pilot. With continuous training, you can improve your flight accuracy and practice emergency scenarios to become adept at dealing with them.